As a mom I hold various roles in my children's lives: chaffeur, disciplinarian, chef, teacher, personal shopper, errand runner, cheerleader, supporter, bank.... The one I hold most precious is that of teacher. I'm the one who has the first opportunity to instill in my children the values, morales, behaviours, experiences I want them to have to help shape them into young adults and to help them later navigate the often harsh, world we live in.
One of the behaviours I hope they will always remember is that of an active and healthy mom. I've often said that I think my children come out running, with how active I was during all my pregnancies. Being pregnant never stopped me from exercising. Sure I may have modified some exercises, but I was out there each day, running, swimming, lifting weights, riding the stationary bike. Not only did it make me feel better about myself, especially as my waistline disappeared, but also relieved stress, kept those pregnancy hormones in check, and kept me in shape for my role as mom once the baby came. Those bucket car seats are no joke once you add in a 10lb baby!
As soon as I was able, I started walking with my girls. I'd load them in a stroller, sling or baby bjorn and away we would stroll. It wasn't about the pace. It was about moving. Being up late, or early, with an infant can make for a long day and a very tired mom! Getting some fresh air and exercising, even at a light intensity, renewed my energy and helped me get through the day. Plus it was a great way to bond with my child. I could explain to them all about what we were seeing or hearing. Or just feeling the rise and fall of their chest as they slept to the rhythm of my heart beat and step, well, there's just no better feeling than a baby falling asleep on your chest!
Now that my girls are older, they still accompany me on workouts. My oldest joins me for a swim at the pool each Sunday. She may not swim laps next to me the whole time, but I try to be sure that we have time at the end of each workout to play a game or two. We both get a workout in, create memories and get a chance to chat, just her and I, without a sibling interupting us. My middle child is an early riser. She often joins me in push-ups, crunches and strength training as I finish up my workout. She's learned that pull ups aren't just something boys can do and that building muscle and staying strong is important to a healthy body. My youngest, only 2, is not able to join in on many workouts yet, but she watches. I take opportunities while the oldest two are participating in their sports to run around with her. We chase each other, a ball, bubbles or just play hide and seek. Those games may not seem like exercise, but they are! And we share lots of giggles at the same time.
And that's what I want all my children to learn from me. That exercise can be fun, no matter your age. That being healthy is more than a number on a scale. Its running, jumping, building muscle, stretching, trying new activities, eating a rainbow, eating a healthy snack after a not so healthy one (they can all repeat this!). Exercise can be found anywhere, easily incorporated into any lifestyle and FUN.
As my girls grow and the pressures society places on young girls starts to reach them (you're too fat, too skinny, not pretty enough, smart enough, don't have the nicest clothes, etc). As peer pressure and societies expectations of what a young woman should look like, dress like, act like, etc, starts to influence them, I hope they'll remember some of these early teachable moments. To be healthy, over being thin. To eat real food, over chemicals and sugar. To laugh when things get hard. And to always make it fun and enjoy what you're doing.